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Airbnb Listing

Burdick Hill Road residents Sean Dolloway and Mary Hudson complained to the Village of Lansing Planning Board Monday, that the use of a home between their properties, for events and rented on Airbnb, is causing noise and safety issues.  Both said they don't mind the home being rented as an Airbnb property.  But the use of the property for events has kept the neighbors up at night, and day events include inappropriate activities and violations of Village parking regulations.

"Honestly I don't mind having an Airbnb,' Dolloway said. "That doesn't bother me at all.  It's the huge parties and events" Dolloway said. "The weekend before last there was a huge graduation party with beer drinking in the front yard, swearing, all this other stuff,.  Not this last week, but the weekend before there was a huge graduation party with people in the front yard swearing and all this other stuff, my daughter, who is six, was outside.  I ended up calling the police department, and they said unfortunately Lansing has no noise ordinance, so there's not much we can do.  We can ask them to be quiet, but that's as far as we can go."

Dolloway said the owners list the home as the 'Ithaca Events Center'.  It is listed as 'Ithaca Guest House' on Facebook and Airbnb, and also as 'SpiritWings Of Ithaca'.  The 'SpiritWings Of Ithaca' Facebook page says, "SpiritWings is a place of healing, learning and creativity. Host a workshop, class or rent space for your healing modality."  He said that this particular afternoon party included beer games, activities not appropriate for small children playing outside nearby, on-street parking, which is not permitted on that road.

"I researched it, and it clearly something that we need to look at, said Planning Board Chairwoman Lisa Schleelein.  "We have been trying to review some hot topics.  Airbnb is one of the things that, in general, municipalities have battled with.  So it's on our list but we haven't gotten to this yet."

AirDNA StatisticsClick to view AirDNA statistics on 'Unhosted Short Term Rental' properties in Tompkins County

Airbnb is growing significantly in Tompkins County.  As of Wednesday AirDNA was reporting the highest percentage of Airbnb rentals as one and three bedroom properties.  68% of rentals are entire homes, with 31% private rooms, and 6% shared rooms.  Active rentals peak in the second quarter, evidently due to local college graduations.  But the prevalence of Airbnb rentals has been rising.  The second quarter of 2016 had 746 rentals, rising to 874 in 2017, and 1,089 in 2018.  Ratings by visitors were generally positive, with 89% of their visits rated at 89% out of a hundred.

This growth has municipalities scrambling to catch up with laws and regulations.  The Town of Ithaca has been considering limiting the number of days per year to 29 days for a property to be rented without the owner present.  And in 2016 Tompkins County became the first county in the state to come to a tax collection agreement with Airbnb.  This is not the only innovation municipalities are struggling with.  Last year both the Town and Village of Lansing said no to developers who wanted to build small rental houses, closely spaced.  While the proposals did not meet the strict definition of 'tiny houses', it was clear that current zoning in the Lansings doesn't know how to deal with such projects.

In a 2017 report Tom Knipe, of the Tompkins County Planning Department, outlined potential benefits and threats to what was, at that time, a $3,200,000 business in Tompkins County alone.  The report showed 22,400 guests staying in Airbnb listings in 2016 in properties owned by 550 hosts.  Average host earnings were $5,818 based on an average of 16 reservations per host.  Knipe extrapolated that of 900,000 annual visitors to the county, 2.49% stayed in Airbnb rentals.  He estimated that the 22,400 Airbnb guests spent $7,504,000 locally.

"They do a lot of moon stuff, which is in the middle of the night," Hudson said. "Last time it was really bad.  There were wine tour busses.  I actually moved my privacy fence because when all the cars come into their parking lot it shines into my bedroom window in the middle of the night.  People stand out there and talk, and make loud noises and yowl.  If your windows are open you're going to hear that."

Code Enforcement and Zoning Officer Mike Scott said he could follow up on the complaint by sending the owners a letter, but would not speculate as to what actions would follow that.  He said that the next step would be for the owners to come to his office to describe exactly what function the property is being used for, so it can be defined.  While a home occupation would not trigger action in that zone, a business might. Village Attorney William Troy said the owners might ultimately be required to appear in Lansing Town court.

But beyond Planning Board Member Carolyn Greenwald's suggestions that they call the owners to discuss the issue, there isn't much recourse as long as there are no town or village laws for the police to enforce.  Greenwald suggested the neighbors meet with the owners in person.

"Say when your renters are one family who keep to themselves they would not complain to the Village to pass the most stringent law that we could possibly get," she suggested. "So it is in your best interest.  You would still be able to rent, but the other thing that could happen is that we would argue hard for no short-term rentals in the Village and that would shut you down completely. So why don't you start meeting us half way now?"

Schleelein said that Burdick Hill Road is zoned for residential use, but another planning board member said the uses described by Dolloway and Hudson qualify as a commercial enterprise with advertising and multiple sources of income from commercial entities in a residential zone.  Schleelein noted the multiple used exceed the definition of 'home occupation'.  Troy said there has been a lot of litigation over unhosted short term rentals, so the Village would have to 'tread carefully' in devising laws to regulate them.

"We are a small village, but we have been looking at what other municipalities are doing," Schleelein said. "There's always a drawback to something, but there are some advantages to having healthy, monitored Airbnbs.  So we don't want to overstep either."

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